A train carrying hazardous chemicals partially derailed, causing a massive fire in eastern Ohio on 3 February. The event is categorized as a major health crisis and is raising significant concerns for residents in the surrounding area. The train had 141 loaded cars, out of which around 20 cars were listed as containing hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a carcinogen released into the air, soil and water following the derailment, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Norfolk Southern, the company that operated the train, has released a plan to clean up the site, including monitoring groundwater by digging wells.
The controlled burn of vinyl chloride on 6 February by Norfolk Southern, the company that operated the train, caused a giant fireball and column of black smoke above the site, which has significantly harmed the environment and local residents. Reports of dead pets, fish corpses, and physical symptoms such as headaches and burning eyes are alarming and require immediate action. The crisis is associated with the Chernobyl chemical disaster of 1986.
The derailment in Ohio serves as a stark example of the consequences that result from complacent and negligent law enforcement agencies that fail to take proactive measures to prevent such hazardous and catastrophic events. We must demand accountability and advocate for change to prevent future disasters of this magnitude.
There is a sobering list of accidents that underscores the importance of strict protocols and their proper implementation. Let’s examine some of the deadliest disasters in history:
- The Chernobyl disaster, which took place on April 26, 1986, is among the worst nuclear accidents in history. The reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine released large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, causing the immediate deaths of over 30 people and exposing tens of thousands to dangerous radiation levels. The disaster’s long-term health effects are still being studied, but it is believed to have caused an increase in cancer and other ailments. The area surrounding the power plant, known as the “Exclusion Zone,” remains uninhabitable, reminding the importance of safety measures in nuclear facilities.
- The Halifax Harbour explosion occurred in 1917 during World War I, considered the world’s most enormous pre-atomic explosion. The collision between two ships, one carrying explosive cargo, caused the blast, destroying much of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and causing significant damage to the surrounding areas. Over 2,000 people died, thousands were injured, and thousands were left homeless. This tragedy highlights the importance of proper handling and transportation of explosive materials, especially during times of war. The city of Halifax has since rebuilt and annually commemorates the event with a special memorial service.
- The Bhopal gas tragedy, which occurred in 1984 in the Indian city of Bhopal, is considered among the worst industrial disasters in history. A gas leak at a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide India Limited released toxic gas into the surrounding residential areas, leading to thousands of deaths and injuries to hundreds of thousands. The long-term health effects of the disaster are still being felt, with many survivors suffering from chronic health issues. This event highlighted the need for better industrial safety measures and corporate responsibility, leading to improved regulations and safety standards in India and other countries.
- The Phillips 66’s petrochemical complex massive explosion in Pasadena, Texas, in 1989 caused 23 fatalities and over 130 injuries. The blast was caused by flammable chemicals that ignited, resulting in a devastating fire that lasted for several hours. Phillips 66 implemented new safety procedures and invested in improving its safety culture. At the same time, the incident brought attention to the importance of process safety in the petrochemical industry and spurred new regulations and guidelines for plant safety.
- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was a catastrophic environmental disaster caused by an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 people and resulting in an 87-day oil leak. Millions of barrels of oil were released into the ocean, causing extensive damage to the environment and local communities. BP paid billions in fines and compensation, highlighting the risks associated with offshore drilling and the importance of safety measures and contingency plans in the industry.
As we reflect on these historical disasters, it’s clear that they all share a common thread: they were preventable. Whether caused by human error, corporate negligence, or inadequate safety measures, each event resulted in a tragic loss of life and irreparable environmental damage. The question we must ask ourselves is, what can we do to prevent such disasters from happening in the future? The answer lies in a commitment to prioritizing safety, holding corporations and government agencies accountable, and listening to concerns raised by workers and communities. We must learn from these past tragedies and work towards a future where such disasters become a thing of the past.
For Hindi Readers:- तबाहीजनक आपदाओं की रोकथाम: ओहियो और इतिहास से सबक